Thursday, August 21, 2008

Out In The Open

Reading La Presse, they are reporting on the likelihood of Harper calling an election prior to Parliament's return on September 15th. According to Conservative sources:
"The option to call a general election before the resumption of parliamentary is on the table. Everything will depend on the results of meetings with the heads of the other parties"

When I first heard of the meeting, at Harper's request, it seemed unusual, given his style. I actually take the above quote as entirely true, because it fits nicely with the emerging Harper election rationalization. We already know how Duceppe and Layton will react, leaving the discussion between Dion and Harper as key. In a sense, I see this meeting as a trap, Harper can use this dialogue to justify the "dysfunctional" argument. Pretty easy to picture the following- Harper emerges from his meeting with Dion and tells Canadians he sees no common purpose, it is clear from Dion's stance that Parliament can't work. In this way, Harper takes the onus off himself, attempting to show he extended an olive branch only to be rebuffed by the other parties. Harper throws up his hands and calls an election.

There was a curious development last week, Harper's calling of another byelection, to take place after Parliament reconvenes. This call wasn't necessary, but its timing is quite revealing in my estimation. What better way to send mixed messages to the opposition, than to float the idea of a quick election call, then throw in a by-election to make it appear that Parliament would reconvene? It's the kind of gamesmanship Harper loves, this belief in keeping others off balance. This latest by-election call isn't what it appears, and I see it as a way to get the dogs off the scent.

La Presse speculates that the election would take place on October 20th or 27th, just prior to the American contest. In many ways, I can understand Harper's hurry, I honestly think the decision has already been made. Whether he can or not, is another matter, but easy to see why calling an election before Parliament reconvenes is advantageous. If you sense the opposition wants an election, why give them a high profile forum to make their case, why allow them to batter the government, soften them up prior to a vote? Moving prior, allows Harper to go on his own terms, without the limelight of pesky accountability, the spectre of scandal. If we see a real ramp up in Conservative ads in the next couple of weeks, it will provide another clue.

I think the economy is tanking, beyond what Flaherty projected. I also think the next financial release could well show a further deficit, something which isn't easily fluffed off like the previous update. How can the government make their case, if we have another indicator of fiscal mismanagement? A slumping economy, a government who will be on defensive if they pass out typical election goodies, not a optimal situation for Harper. Better to go sooner, before the chickens come home to roost.

Harper has revealed himself, if we read between the lines. This allows the Liberals to react with that knowledge, and Dion could well short circuit this ultimatum style meeting with his own preamble. I think Harper has already decided, what could he possibly think could come of these face to face meetings? It's a joke really, there is nothing constructive about it. The smart play is to assume, and react in a magnanimous way, don't give Harper the cover he desperately needs to rationalize. We want to see what the government proposes when Parliament returns, and we will react depending on their proposals. Any thoughts of an election call prior to the return, shows Harper is desperate to avoid scrutiny, he is worried about scandal, he is manufacturing a crisis that doesn't exist. The Harper argument is really a nonsensical one, the only way it works is if we fall for his trap by appearing combative.


Anonymous said...

He wants to go before the next fiscal update which is almost certain to show a deficit. He is hoping to eke out a minority in Oct.

Anonymous said...

Harper does not want to go through this next 6 months as the economy unravels. This is the only way he sees out, and it is all for show.

I predict his plan even now is to spin this as another chapter in the Dion "not a leader" tale by proclaiming he pulled the trigger because Dion was too timid.

With that in mind, I almost wonder if the opposite tact wouldn't be in order.

While I don't expect this to happen, I think it would be great for Dion to not attend the meeting, stand on the steps of the Parliament building and launch a preemptive strike even as the others gather. In his speech, he can indicate those areas where parliament has managed to make progress, then go on to point out every instance in which the conservatives have attempted to make parliament dysfunctional (or limit the list since that could take hours). Then he should explain the Liberals have no intention of attending a dog and pony show with Harper to give him cover for his intention to break his word to the people.

Dion should emphasize the new law was intended to set a firm date, using the words Harper used in putting forth the law. Then he should conclude that, therefore, until the opposition parties pull the plug Harper is obligated to honor his own legislation.

Then he should head home, walk the dog, go out to a nice dinner with his wife and prepare for the election the next day, ready to slam Harper again on breaking his own promise on elections and pointing out every single day that the only reason Harper did was to force an election before the shit hits the fan (in kinder, more Dionesque language ; ).

Run the rest of the campaign as you would expect, announcing policy, etc. But never let a day go by without pointing out that Harper and his conservatives bend and break every rule, even their own, when it suits their political will. Make that the background for the entire election, as it will tie the conservative behaviour for the past 2 1/2 years together quite nicely.

ottlib said...

Neither the Bloc nor the NDP have a real big incentive to have an election now so they might be the fly in the ointment for Mr. Harper.

If either or came out and said during the campaign that they would be willing to work with the Conservatives it would undermine Mr. Harper's case.

This is particularly true in Quebec where Mr. Harper is going after many of the same voters as Mr. Duceppe.

knb said...

Dion is respectful of the office of PM. He said last night that he'd meet with him, Harper, if called.

He's not a stupid man and not one to be duped.

Harper may be playing the nice PM card and btw, he's called few meetings with the opposition.

Now, he has met with Jack a few times and played his card accordingly and Cam may be loath to admit that, but his guy has been duped more than once.

Will Dion meet in earnest? Yes. Is he as pliable as Jack? Not a chance.

To be a fly on the wall.

Steve V said...

A few more quotes on this:

“Our objective is obviously to get some clarity as to whether there is some common ground, enough common ground to have a fall [parliamentary] agenda,” said Mr. Harper's director of communication, Kory Teneycke

“We're looking for common ground, and the Prime Minister will make a determination after those meetings, based on those discussions,” Mr. Teneycke said.

What Joseph mentions, a pre-emptive strike might be an option. The Cons are clearly setting this up, all talking from the same hymn book now.

RuralSandi said...

Well, well - Jack Layton, after all his posturing, says it's too early for Harper to call an election:

NDP leader against early election call
Last Updated: Thursday, August 21, 2008 | 6:01 PM ET Comments28Recommend22CBC News
Prime Minister Stephen Harper would be "misguided" if he chose to call a federal election before Parliament resumes sitting on Sept. 15, NDP Leader Jack Layton said Thursday.

Layton was commenting in Montreal, where he's campaigning with candidate Anne Lagace-Dowson in advance of next month's byelection in Westmount-Ville Marie. Voters are set to go to the polls to fill vacancies in three ridings on Sept. 8 and in a fourth riding on Sept. 22.

Harper said earlier this week that Parliament was not functioning properly and that he would decide in the next few weeks whether to proceed with the fall session or call an election.

.....yup, Jackie boy, you're all talk and blustering, all the while Harper has manipulated you. While you're at it Jackie boy, figure out if you are against Harper or not - you seem confused.

Steve V said...

Layton commenting, with a decent quote

NDP leader against early election call

Prime Minister Stephen Harper would be "misguided" if he chose to call a federal election before Parliament resumes sitting on Sept. 15, NDP Leader Jack Layton said Thursday

"He's managed to get his entire program through with the help of the Liberals and the Bloc [Québécois]. So it's actually not a valid complaint," Layton said. "So he's up to something."

Steve V said...

lol Sandi :)

Anonymous said...

I think that the Harper government needs to be be defeated in Parliament - as stipulated by the Fixed Elections Act. If Harper unilaterally calls an election then he is a blatant hypocrit and liar.

Its quite rich to hear Harper saying that Parliament is "dysfunctional". What's he complaining about, thanks to Dion's cowardice, the Conservatives have been able to easily pass very single bill they wanted to pass in record time. Harper's never had it so good - why not let the Conservative/Liberal de facto coaltion government go an foer another year?

Steve V said...

That actually brings up a interesting angle. I'm sure all the opposition parties would prefer to get Harper back in the House, so a bit of a united front might just neuter Harper, or he looks very opportunistic.

kody at home said...

The Liberals cannot 'react' as they have no funds to gamble with.

They are left with the choice of risking expending their limited resources on a hunch,

or waiting it out.

Meanwhile, expect the Cons to ramp up the ads as they continue to draw on their massive war chest.

Unfair? No. Just the canary in the coalmine. Putting your money where your mouth is, is one of the best gauges of voter movement. More supporters mean more money, which means more resources to get more supporters.

Unless Harper is caught doing cocaine with a prostitute in the next eight weeks, this election is over before it starts.

Harper will gain a majority.

Sean S. said...

sorry knb, remind us all how many times the NDP has voted with the Conservatives on confidence motions?

Not sure how the NDP has been "duped" by the to explain.

Sean S. said...

that being said. I agree, the best bet for all opposition parties is to unite against Harper, force an election, and let the chips fall will they may.

wilson said...

Dion asks Harper to state his views on abortion

I'd say that Dion is not interested in making parliament work, it's election time foks.

We're ready.

Anonymous said...

This is just the latest in a series of escalations by the Cons over the last 3 years.

Remember the multi-million dollar war room? Remember the "not a leader" ads? Remember when Harper broke his silence with parliamentary press gallery to challenge Dion to "fish or cut bait" the first time?

These were all ramped up posturing to prevent an election because, like Wells says, the Cons NEVER wanted an election. They intend on governing to the end.

This is just the most pumped-up its got so far. Maybe I'll eat my hat but I'm convinced the Cons won't pull the trigger themselves.

The question is whether the Libs will stop thinking about what the Cons want and start acting in their own interest

Anonymous said...

Raising the abortion issue out of the blue???

Anyone above a grade six education level would see that for what it is: an act of desperation by a desperate politician with historically low personal approval numbers.

Maybe Dion will accuse Harper of a hidden agenda to place Canada under military control -

in our cities.....Dion is not making this up....


It would be funny if it wasn't so pathetic. Canada needs a functioning democracy with a viable opposition in the waiting. Dion is bad for our democracy.

Anonymous said...

"Maybe Dion will accuse Harper of a hidden agenda"

Harper's agenda is a peculiar question. On one hand those who pay attention know what it is (Flanagan outlined it pretty clearly in his book Harper's Team). But at the same time Steve hasn't been too forthcoming with where he would truly like to take the country often trying to portray himself as more moderate than he is.

In conclusion I would say that yes Harper does have a hidden agenda because he isn't willing to be honest about his beliefs and intentions.

RuralSandi said...

Oh, please....the NDP can do whatever they want about voting - the onus is NOT on them. Easy to look brave when you don't have to be.

catherine said...

"Raising the abortion issue out of the blue???"

Anon, Dion was answering a direct question in a public forum. You can watch it yourself on Garth Turner's blog. The National Post chose to ignore the question and make it sound like Dion just spontaneously brought up this topic. Don't get duped by the NP.

RuralSandi said...

I think it's a valid question consider Charles McVety's influence on Harper and the Conservatives and all the flack about Morgentaler.

....while they're at it - what about the death penalty Mr. Harper?

Steve V said...

All the other parties leaders have given clear answers to this questions, why doesn't Harper tell us his views, without all the massaged language?

Anonymous said...

It's nice to know that Dion is personally pro-choice on abortion. Now can he tell us what he thinks of members of the Liberal caucus voting in favour of anti-abortion private members bills? The one about supposedly punishing anyone who harms a fetus only passed second reading because so many Liberals voted in favour of it.

Steve V said...


I think the last thing a Conservative wants is a discussion of what MP's think, and is that reflective of the party view. Remember, this is the party that hides their candidates in kitchens, so the press can't talk to them.

wilson said...

''why doesn't Harper tell us his views, without all the massaged language''

Because his caucus is both prolife and prochoice, he leads them all.

Because a Unity Party does not go down roads that divide a Nation, PMSH leads them all.

Dion just handed PMSH the Unity card.

Steve V said...

"Dion just handed PMSH the Unity card"

You're delusional...again. Yawn.

wilson said...

Then why aren't libloggers jumping all over the abortion issue?

Dion didn't corner PMSH on the scary hidden agenda theme???
Where's Dion's message of 'hope' in reigniting the abortion issue???

IMO Canadians are sick of 'things that divide' us. The abortion issue is a biggy.

Dion blew it, 'a Unity Party does not go down roads that divide a Nation'....

knb said...

Wilson, there is NO abortion issue and this comment didn't come out of the blue.

Dion is not raising it as an issue, he was responding to a question at a town hall and rather rhetorically suggested that Canadians had a right to know.

It's a perfect example of shoddy reporting and an attempt to drive the agenda.

Omar said...

..Liberal caucus voting in favour of anti-abortion private members bills?

A nasty piece of business that certainly got stuck in my craw.

Steve V said...

"IMO Canadians are sick of 'things that divide' us."

And your Prime Minister is the BIGGEST divider in Canadian history, the entire impetus is predicated on having an ENEMY. It blows my mind that someone could actually see this guy as a uniter.

knb said...

Bang on Steve, but she's not worth debating.

That she see's Harper as a uniter is all you need to know about wilson.

The bad news is that people like her exist.

I don't mean to suggest they shouldn't, I just dont understand how they do. What part of the education system did they miss?

Okay, I'm ticked obviously. I'll leave it there.

Steve V said...

"Bang on Steve, but she's not worth debating."

This is going to sound harsh, but sorry it's true. What kind of a person spends all her days LIVING on Liberal blogs. I mean, we all visit the other side from time to time, but to spend so much time here, it's almost pathetic. Does she actually think we take the crap seriously, like anyone is sitting at home going "good point wilson, hadn't thought of that". She's the biggest koolaid drinker on the blogsphere, absolutely nothing she's every said I have I taken seriously, and yet everyday on some Liberal blog, there she is. Knock yourself out, I actually enjoy watching you WASTE your time. Whatever.

Again sorry to be harsh, but she's not a bit right (well really right, but you get my gist).